This is Gaspar Marcos. He’s 18 years old, grew up in Huehuetenango, Guatemala, and was orphaned at age 5. At age 12, he came to the United States after the neighbor who took him in could no longer afford to take care of him. His already dangerous journey to the United States took a nearly fatal turn when he was left to die in the Sonoran Desert, only to then be kidnapped. Eventually, after facing just about every hardship guaranteed to kill someone’s spirit, Marcos made it to Los Angeles.
Gaspar Marcos currently spends his time going to class at Belmont High School, located in the Latino-heavy L.A. neighborhood of Westlake. Going to school is very important for Marcos. “If you don’t have education, nobody will respect you,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “If you don’t educate yourself, you don’t have employment. I want to be a good person and have an education … have a good, stable job. I want to have a home, the sort of home I never had.”
But going to school while learning English and having absolutely no family support isn’t the only thing on Marcos’s plate. He also works long hours as a dishwasher for a restaurant in Westwood, an affluent neighborhood that is also home to UCLA. He needs the job because he lives alone, renting a room in a family’s house for $600 a month.
The 18-year-old knows it’s tough, but he doesn’t let the awful hand he’s been dealt stop him. “At first you must suffer, but maybe further along I’ll have a better future if God allows me to keep doing what I’m doing,” he says in the video.
You can read more about Gaspar and others like him here.
This past Sunday, voters took to to the polls in Guatemala and voted in a new leader that will surely shape the country for the next four years. Alejandro Giammattei, a right-wing former prison chief,took victory in the presidential electionsin Guatemala, winning nearly 60% of the vote over former First Lady Sandra Torres, who had 42% of the vote. The election was filled with many questions and ultimately became a contest where Guatemalans viewed the election a battle between the worst possible options.
Giammattei faced an uphill battle during the election cycle that many didn’t see him ending up on top considering this was his fourth attempt running for President. The 63-year-old spent several months in prison back in 2008, when he was then director of the country’s prison system, due to some prisoners being killed in a raid during this tenure. He would eventually be acquitted of wrongdoing.
“Today is a new period of the country,” Giammattei toldsupporters Guatemala City following his victory. “Those who voted for us, those who did not vote for us, and those who did not go to vote, it does not matter. Today we need to unite, today I am the president of all Guatemalans.”
Here’s what you need to know about Giammattei and why was elected to lead Guatemala.
Giammattei was at first viewed as a long shot to win the nomination but his get-tough approach to crime and his conservative viewpoints, which includes his strong opposition to gay marriage and abortion, won him over with Guatemalan voters in a presidential runoff. He ran on a platform with a promise to bring down violence, endorse family values and support the death penalty.
There are about eight million Guatemalans who are registered to vote in the Central American country. But the nation that has been hit with by poverty, unemployment and migration issues, had about 45% turnout which suggests widespread disillusionment and lack of confidence with the political process.
Giammattei will take office in January from President Jimmy Morales, who leaves a corruption-tainted legacy. He congratulated his successor and promised a “transparent and orderly” transition.
“I hope that during this transition the doors will open to get more information so we can see what, from a diplomatic point of view, we can do to remove from this deal the things that are not right for us, or how we can come to an agreement with the United States,” Giammattei, 63, told Reutersin an interview.
What does the election of Giammattei mean for Guatemala moving forward, particularly when it comes to immigration?
One of the biggest issues facing Guatemala right now are the growing number of migrants that are leaving the country and heading towards the United States. At least 1% of Guatemala’s population of some 16 million has left the country this year due to a worsening economic situation and distrust in government. About 250,000 people from Guatemala were apprehended at the border since October,according toto U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Back in July, the Morales’ administration signed an agreement with the U.S. that would require Salvadorans and Hondurans to request asylum at a port of entry in Guatemala. This was done in part to slow the number of migrants that were crossing through the country to reach the U.S. The new administration will have to figure out what to do with the agreement which could have huge ramifications when it comes to the inflow of Central American migrants coming to the U.S. border.
This all will mean that Giammattei will need to negotiate with President Trump, who last month threatened to impose a travel ban, tariffs on exports and even taxes on migrants’ remittances if the country did not work with him on immigration reform. But that relationship won’t be an easy task as many, including Giammattei don’t agree with the deal.
“It’s not right for the country,” Giammattei toldNBC News. “If we don’t have the capacity to look after our own people, imagine what it will be like for foreigners.”
There are various takes on which direction Guatemala will go in with a new leader at the top.
As a new era in politics takes shape in Guatemala many are reflecting on the possibilities and the economic effect the election may bring. Many in the country wanted change at the top due to the prior administration and the corruption that it was constantly wrapped in.
“I decided to vote against Sandra Torres because of the accusations of corruption,” Rosa Julaju, an indigenous Kaqchikel woman, toldAl Jazeera.”I hope Giammattei confronts the violence in our country. I voted for him for better security.”
Whatever the reason to vote, it’s clear the country is moving in a new direction that many hope will bring prosperity and more job opportunities. But that will all rest on Giammattei who is in control of a country that is just looking to get back on it’s feet after years of corruption at the top.
The Trump administration has been guilty of using dangerous rhetoric against immigrants, and Latinos in particular. But in addition to the often times blatantly racist rhetoric, the administration has also taken steps to stem the flow of migrants from Latin American countries.
Until recently, the government was set on stopping undocumented migrants from coming to the US – case in point, Trump’s vanity project of the border wall. The government has also limited the ability of refugees to claim asylum in the US, threatening the safety, security, and literal lives of tens of thousands of people.
However, as of today, the Trump administration is also moving to limit legal immigration to the country by basically making their lives a living hell once they’ve arrived in the US.
On Monday, the administration announced a new rule that would severely limit legal immigrant’s right to public assistance.
The Trump administration released a regulation Monday that could dramatically cut the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter and stay in the US by making it easier to reject green card and visa applications.
Paired with last week’s enforcement raids on food processing plants in Mississippi, Monday’s announcement amounts to a concerted effort by the administration to limit legal immigration and crack down on illegal immigration.
The 837-page rule applies to those seeking to come to or remain in the United States via legal channels and is expected to impact roughly 383,000 people, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
The new rule is set to begin on October 15 and will impose several new restrictions for recent arrivals and green card holders.
The rule means many green card and visa applicants could be turned down if they have low incomes or little education, and have used benefits such as most forms of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers, because they’d be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future.
Under current regulations put in place in 1996, the term “public charge” is defined as someone who is “primarily dependent” on government assistance, meaning it supplies more than half their income. But it only counted cash benefits, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or Supplemental Security Income from Social Security.
Officials can take into account an applicant’s financial resources, health, education, skills, family status and age. But few people are rejected on these relatively narrow grounds, experts said.
But according to the Trump administration, none of this is meant to target Latinos – which, of course, few people are believing.
When asked about whether the rule is unfairly targeting low-income immigrants, Cuccinelli said: “We certainly expect people of any income to be able to stand on their own two feet, so if people are not able to be self-sufficient, than this negative factor is going to bear very heavily against them in a decision about whether they’ll be able to become a legal permanent resident. “
On Twitter, this has been the general consensus:
As a defense of the its policies against undocumented migrants and asylum seekers, the Trump administration has often relied on talking points about legal immigration to sound compassionate and welcoming. The administration often says “we are a nation of laws“ and that if They’re followed the US is here to welcome you.
With this new regulation, the administration is proving that’s not true. And people across social media are not having any of it.
While many pointed out that this was flat out discrimination against the poor.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump also issued a memorandum doubling down on a current law that requires immigrants’ sponsors to take financial responsibility for certain income-based government benefits the immigrant receives. It’s unclear whether enforcing the law would make any substantial difference.
Several immigrant’s rights activists and organizations are already threatening swift legal action.
Monday’s regulation is likely to meet legal challenges, but it could still cause some who fear retribution to alter their daily lives.
About one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that either the person or a family member did not participate in a non-cash safety net program last year because of fear of risking his or her green card status in the future, an Urban Institute study found.
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